Chesterton Tribune

Fond farewell to historic Town Hall

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Thursday at dusk more than 100 bats performed their nightly ritual and flew out of the cupola of the Porter town hall, not knowing they soon would be homeless.

The 1913 building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was open to the public yesterday before preparations for its demolition began today. About 30 people walked through the building, many with cameras.

“I went to school up here while they were building Yost School,” said Roland Pearson, 64, as he snapped a shot of the second-floor meeting room “so I can remember what it looked like.”

Nancy Hokanson said she debated whether she wanted to visit the building or not. She was a member of last year’s citizen advisory committee which determined it was feasible to renovate the masonry structure. Instead, on a 3-2 vote the Town Council decided to demolish the town hall and build a new $730,000 one in its place.

“I feel like we did what we could,” said Hokanson of the committee. “I tried to stay open-minded with it. There’s so many possibilities with this building. It’s really a shame.”

Architectural elements like the oversize wooden doors to the council chambers and the Arts and Crafts-inspired wooden staircase were to be removed today and placed in storage, but there are no current plans to incorporate them in the new town hall. Council President Kathryn Kozuszek said, “We haven’t found a place to put them.”

Mike Copollo, his son Zachary atop his shoulders, took pictures of the building’s exterior to email to former Town Council member Joan Shields, who now lives near Seattle. Said Copollo, “There’s so many people generations deep in this town, it seems more reasonable to preserve the town hall than to tear it down. They’re not saving any money. It’s a shame there couldn’t have been a way to work it out.”

Copollo’s father Carl was a member of the Porter Fire Department and Mike said he remembers as a child being at the town hall fire station watching Porter Hardware burn on the next block in May of 1970.

Christi Kalbe, accompanied by son Travis, 7, brought her camera, too. “I figure I’d save some pictures to show my grandkids, but it’s a totally different ballgame seeing it yourself than looking at a picture.”

Connie Taylor also took pictures, but her intent was to document the sad and unsanitary condition of the building, which hasn’t been maintained for years or occupied for several months. Kozuszek said she put a new line item in the town’s 2003 budget for building maintenance so money will be there for future upkeep.

Roy Peterson briefly toured the town hall. F.E. Peterson, whose name is on the building’s cornerstone, is his father Frank. Kozuszek said the cornerstone will be used on the new town hall.

Tim and Janet Hagan of Portage had been following the town-hall controversy in the newspaper and decided they wanted to see the building before it’s demolished. “It’s a shame if they build a new one, things have to be torn down,” said Janet. Added Tim, “I’m not nearly as sentimental as my wife, but I hate to see it happen in Porter, which has such a small-town atmosphere.”

Joe Grossbauer of rural Chesterton told Porter Clerk-treasurer Paula Deiotte, “My fear is 20 years from now, another generation will ask why this building was torn down.”

“Hopefully, someone will say the building didn’t work for us any more,” she replied.

Grossbauer said he lived in Chicago where many historically significant buildings were lost. “I think this town hall has historic value. It’s like there is no historical perspective here.”

Two weeks ago, Yost Elementary School teacher Andy Borrelli of Chesterton brought his 4th Grade students to the town hall. Their assignment was to find the name “E. N. Yost” on the building’s cornerstone, from which the class took rubbings with crayon.

“The kids knew (the town hall) would be torn down. We’ve talked about it briefly,” said Borrelli. “It’s a neat old building but it’s time. They did a beautiful job on the police station across the street. They should have done it all at one time.”


Posted 9/27/2002